Posted by: on February 28, 2020 at 4:00 pm

We are not medical experts. We can’t tell you every way that the newly-discovered coronavirus will affect your business. And that’s not even close to what we’re attempting to do.

But the “novel coronavirus” and COVID-19 are on a lot of people’s minds, especially with reports of the first US case without a known source. (AKA “community exposure” – the infected person had no confirmed contact with anyone ill.)

The news is affecting manufacturing and other industries, as goods pile up in shipping facilities. Possibly, your business supplies have already been delayed.

Early containment seems to be key in allowing the virus to die out. Below, we’ve gathered some of the ways your business can prepare for coronavirus.

Some Ways to Prepare Your Business for Novel Coronavirus

Again, we are not infectious disease experts. Please follow expert medical guidelines. We’ve listed some resources below.

chalkboard with "I must wash my hands" written on it over and over.

One simple way to prepare your business for coronavirus is keeping soap and paper towels well-stocked for your staff.

That said, here are some of the common ways businesses are preparing for novel coronavirus:

  1. Handwashing. Yup, the good old “wash your hands all the time/sing your ABCs” advice. The structure of the coronavirus makes it very susceptible to simple soap and water. So make sure your office is well-stocked with hand soap and paper towels. Encourage staff to wash their hands thoroughly after using the bathroom, sneezing, blowing their nose, and even coming in from public areas.
  2. Wipe down keyboards, phones, and desks. Again, simple advice and something we should all do at least weekly, if not daily, anyway. Keep cleaning wipes on hand for staff to wipe down keyboards, mice, phones, and desk surfaces. Use wipes specifically for your type of monitors to prevent screen damage.
  3. Allow staff to reschedule business travel to outbreak areas. Most business can be conducted over the phone or email. Even law firms are coming around to the idea of e-signatures in order to expedite contracts, etc.
  4. Allow staff to work from home. Now, some business owners are adamantly against this. For some businesses, it’s just plain impossible. (That CNC machine can’t run itself, after all.) But, there are solid and valid reasons to allow staff to work from home if at all possible. Read on…

Should Your Staff Work From Home?

As we said above, there are solid business reasons to allow staff to work from home, especially with the threat of a pandemic. Bad weather, car problems, and waiting around for the HVAC team to show up are all reasons that someone might want to work from home. While some may abuse the provision, the vast majority of workers feel more productive when they work from home. Allowing this provision can also help contain diseases. How?

For your traveling staff. We mentioned rescheduling travel to outbreak areas. In addition, many countries are imposing a 14-day quarantine on travelers returning from these places. It could happen here. Should your hard-working traveling staff have to burn through their sick time or paid time off, “just in case?” They were traveling to benefit your business. Why not allow them the “perk” of working from home during the quarantine?

Whether for business or personal, if an employee is traveling from a high-outbreak area, why not let them work from home for a couple of weeks just to make sure they stay healthy? This is not a bad idea during flu season anyway, since flu and cold viruses are rampant in airports and airplanes.

For your staff member that “isn’t that sick.” Even before this new outbreak, it’s a plain fact that many people come to work sick. They only have a “little” fever. Or a “slight” sore throat. Meanwhile, they’re spreading germs to the rest of your team.

Another reason people come to work sick is insufficient paid sick leave. Many times, someone who will not get paid if they don’t work is going to come in sick. If all their paid time off is in one PTO account, and they have a vacation planned later in the year, they may come in sick.

cute sleeping kitty

Emerald works from home during our disaster recovery trial run.

Allowing staff to work from home eliminates some of these issues. Sure, you may have a slacker or two, but the vast majority of workers feel more productive when they work from home. The “just a little sick” employee can work in their pajamas with cups of tea handy, napping at lunch. The one with vacation planned later in the year can work without fear of using up all their PTO.

Overall, it’s worth at least looking at your staffing from a position of “Can this work be done remotely?” Plan ahead, run “fire drills,” and implement your work from home policy!

In conclusion, the fact is, any infectious disease outbreak – even the common cold – can have repercussions for your business. One or two employees rotating out each day for weeks in a row can cause a disruption. Most of us have seen this happen every flu season already. This is not meant to be a comprehensive guide for your business. Examine your workflows and enact policies accordingly.

In short, at this point there’s no need to panic. Implementing some common-sense policies for your business can help all of us stay healthier.

Resources:

State of Michigan

Centers for Disease Control (CDC)

World Health Organization (WHO)

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